For Addie Friedlander, Her Camera Brings Connection and a Higher Purpose
For Addie Friedlander, Her Camera Brings Connection and a Higher Purpose

A few years ago, Addie Friedlander '18 set out on a mission. Her goal was simple: learn to take the best photos she could on a shoestring budget. She did that — and more.

But first, she needed a camera of her own. Addie got to work and made it happen. Over school breaks, she labored on a farm, saving up her earnings, and, the summer before her junior year at Walker's, she had gathered enough cash to purchase her first camera: a Nikon all-around that would serve as a good starting point. The issue was that she didn't have any leftover earnings for lessons, so she had to teach herself how to work her new device.

Addie was determined. She spent hours watching how-to YouTube videos and then found an agreeable subject: her rescue dog, Mojo. "My brother wouldn't model for my photos, so I had to train my dog," she says. "I taught her to 'freeze' and stay in position." While Mojo sat there posing, Addie clicked away, carefully seeing what worked, and what didn't.

Bringing her camera to campus

Addie Friedlander

When she returned to Walker's as a junior, the budding photographer had worked hard all summer and was getting better at her craft. She was ready for more, and rallied her Walker's friends to help her out. During study halls and on weekends, Addie took classmates out into the fields and woods near campus for personal photo shoots. Convincing them to play along was easy, especially in the time of Instagram. The flattering photos could be posted and shared.

Addie became more confident with the mechanics of the camera, but what she was really focused on was the intangible. "The real art of it," she says, "comes with finding the best frame for each subject and capturing that perfect moment that encapsulates their personality, all in one shot."

Addie says that she enjoys photography, because it allows her to meet new people or get to know friends in different ways. Before each shoot, she spends time with her subjects. "I try to capture their personality, so I have to observe and watch them," she says.

She takes most of her photos outside, partly because she loves the outdoors, partly for the natural light and mostly for economics. Given that she works simply — with just her camera and no money for other equipment — working outside doesn't require lights or reflectors; shooting in the great outdoors fits within her budget.

A new business with a rough start

Last fall, Addie, who is always looking for the next challenge, had an epiphany about what she could do with her camera. She wanted to continue to take photos but also do something positive for the community. Charging for photo sessions, she thought, could help her support a good cause — and she knew of one right on Walker's campus. Now a senior, she gathered her trusty Nikon camera, a list of classmates who may need portraits for the yearbook, and her close friend Ellery, who acted as her "secretary" for the new business endeavor. Ellery was instrumental in setting up and tracking each individual shoot, timing and payment.

Copyright Addie Friedlander

Some of these shoots were easier than others. In fact, one was life-threatening. Out in field with the sun dancing on the tall, waving grass — a perfect scene to best capture her friend's spirit — Addie began clicking away when she noticed something slither in the grass. Knowing her friend was deathly afraid of snakes, she kept on shooting, not mentioning what was lurking. A moment later, Addie felt a sting. She had been bitten, but still didn't say anything. Two days later, her roommate emailed the nurse asking if a bloody nose and a rash could be from a snake bite. Unbeknownst to her at the time, Addie had been bitten by a Copperhead and needed to seek immediate medical attention.

Today, she can laugh at the situation, saying all that remains are two small scars — and gorgeous sunlit photos of her friend. That shoot, as well as nearly 20 others, earned Addie $850. She donated all the proceeds to the Horizons at The Ethel Walker School program, which "creates the conditions, connections, and community that enable every girl who attends to gain the skills, confidence and motivation to overcome the opportunity gap and realize her potential." Walker's hosts the Horizons program for six weeks each summer and is the first all-girls Horizons program in the country. Addie felt passionate about supporting the growth of these young women, and still does. With this step, Addie's photos had become more than a hobby; they now had a purpose, a theme she hopes will continue to play out in her life.

For a good cause, a life mission

Addie is heading to Clarkson in the fall before moving on to Cornell, where she was given provisional admission, and her long-term goal is to enter the Army. She plans to enroll in ROTC at Cornell. She made the decision after hearing about it from a current Cornell student. Addie went home and did her usual get-to-know-a-new-subject research: watch a ton of YouTube videos on what Army training is like and the opportunities within the military division. She found it fit with her personality and ambitions to both become a veterinarian and "to do something bigger than myself." That's a road Addie's already headed down, and given the determination and self-motivation she's already shown, she will be giving back to her community – and her country – for years to come.

View Addie's Portfolio